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Do whales and dolphins have families?

Yes they do. Social connections are evident in all species of whales and dolphins – they just love to be together. The family associations among them vary in terms of the kind or degree of closeness and longevity of the relationships. The bond may be loose and temporary or it may be permanent.

Dolphins are very social creatures and live together in pods. Pod life provides individuals with the companionship which is so important to them. The pod members look after one another and cooperate to catch food, raise their young and defend each other from predators. They also play together. The strongest links are without any doubt between mothers and their babies. Most pods contain anywhere from 2 – 30 dolphins depending on the species and the situation. Bottlenose dolphin pod membership can be quite fluid as different dolphins from the bigger community leave or join the pod.

For the fish-eating orcas, family life is very stable. Both sons and daughters remain with their mothers throughout their lives. With sperm whales, the matrilineal society includes just the mothers and their calves and siblings. Older males form separate pods that only visit female-led groups for mating.

Some of the large whales spend time alone but eventually join up for group activities such as feeding migrating or breeding. Even when they are seemingly alone, they are likely to be in acoustic contact with others.

Amazing facts about whales and dolphins

Dive deeper into the world of whales and dolphins and learn more about their lives.

Humpback whale spyhopping
Pair of leaping bottlenose dolphins
Orca (killer whale) at surface
Breaching North Atlantic right whale

Facts about whales

Amazing facts about whales, the largest mammals to live on Earth.

Facts about dolphins

From the orca to the tiny vaquita, learn more about these creatures.

Record breakers

Whales and dolphins hold some incredible records.

Brain power

Just how intelligent are whales and dolphins?

Help us keep all whales and dolphins safe and free

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Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin © Mike Bossley/WDC


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Humpback whale


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